England thwarts France in Ukraine heat
Joleon Lescott gave England the lead after 30 minutes but the French did not let them celebrate for too long, with Samir Nasri equalizing the contest in the 39th minute.
France and England battled hot and humid conditions and split the spoils in a lackluster 1-1 draw in their Euro 2012 group D opener yesterday. Joleon Lescott gave England the lead after 30 minutes but the French did not let them celebrate for too long, with Samir Nasri equalizing the contest in the 39th minute.
The game at Donbass Arena in Donetsk, Ukraine was played in sweltering heat with temperatures reaching well over 30 degrees Celsius.
"It was almost paradoxical that we needed to concede a goal before we scored our goal. And then we failed to score a second goal," said French coach Laurent Blanc. "But we can live with the draw. And in the end both teams realiZed that a draw was in order."
England was satisfied to take home one point from their opener.
"Of course France was one of the favorites in the group, and we can't deny that on paper that might have been the hardest game. I didn't think that anybody let me down," said England boss Roy Hodgson.
And captain Steven Gerrard added: "We would have been delighted with a win, but a draw is okay too. We are satisfied with our performance, now we need to follow up with a win against Sweden."
An injury-ravaged England was playing the first of two matches without the suspended striker Wayne Rooney. England really should have grabbed the lead at the 14-minute mark as James Milner ran onto a through ball and rounded French keeper Hugo Lloris but his left foot attempt found only the side netting.
England grabbed the lead after half an hour on a set piece as Gerrard's free kick from the right side found Lescott, who powered home a header in front of French midfielder Alou Diarra.
The English fans started a chorus of "Football's coming home!" at the 33-minute mark. But they were left holding their collective breath two minutes later as keeper Joe Hart batted Diarra's close range header into the air. Franck Ribery headed the ball back into the front of goal only to see Diarra head the ball wide left.
France got the equalizer 1-1 after 39 minutes after some fine passing had Ribery lay up the ball to Nasri, who struck a right foot blast just inside the left post from outside the area.
After the break, France controled much of the ball possession but could not penetrate the defense of the Three Lions, who were waiting to counter-attack. France began to try from outside but Hart got down to stop Karim Benzema's long-distance attempt in the 66th minute.
Hart made a fine save on a low shot at the right post by Ribery with 15 minutes to play. And Danny Welbeck deflected to corner Yohan Cabaye's blast from about 15 yards out in the 81st minute.
Blanc went for the victory in the 85th minute, bringing in Hatem Ben Arfa and Marvin Martin for Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Malouda. And Les Bleus nearly grabbed the winner but Gerrard headed away Benzema's blast from left of goal a minute later. And Hart was forced to make one more save three minutes into injury time.
France next plays Ukraine on Friday in Donetsk, while England takes on Sweden in Kiev.